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Bike tires will form base of trail in McCandless

| Wednesday, June 19, 2013, 9:46 p.m.
Gwen Titley | Tribune-Review
Adam Ward, 13, and David Spellman, 13, work on pressing small holes into old bike tires at Elsie Spry's home in Wexford on June 6, 2013. Spry and volunteers have been working on connecting strips of rubber tire to make a structured trail.
Gwen Titley | Tribune-Review
(Front left to right) Paul Hansen, 12 and Nick Kotte, 13, work on tying together strips of bicycle tires while Adam Ward, 13, David Spellman, 13, and Elsie Spry press holes in the rubber tires in the back of Spry's Wexford home on June 6, 2013. Spry and volunteers are working to construct a web of bicycle tires to create a structure for a trail.
Gwen Titley | Tribune-Review
Adam Ward, 13, makes a hole larger in a strip of tire so that he can piece it together with another strip at Elsie Spry's home in Wexford on June 6, 2013. Spry and volunteers are working to create webs of tires to create a more stable structure for a trail.
Gwen Titley | Tribune-Review
A pile of tires sits on Elsie Spry's back porch in Wexford on June 6, 2013. Spry and volunteers are making the tires into strips, tying them together and creating a web in an effort to build a more stable structure for a local trail.

Pieces of mountain bike tires shaped like a honeycomb could revive a popular, but rundown, walking trail.

Elsie Spry plans to revamp a section of a quarter-mile trail that runs near North Allegheny Intermediate School in McCandless, using bike tires as the base for a gravel surface to replace the dirt one.

“There's nothing to stop the erosion and nothing to stop you from ‘jack and jilling' down the hill if you slide,” Spry, 55, of Wexford, said.

Spry has collected about 150 mountain bike tires from local bike shops to use on about 80 feet of the dirt path. She needs about 150 more.

With the help of a local Boy Scout troop and other community members, she's cut and altered the tires so they can be installed as the trail's base.

North Allegheny School District's Physical Education Department, with school board approval, contributed about $400 to improve the worst section of the trail.

School volunteers also will help install the path. Spry hopes to complete the project in July.

“It's the nicest and most scenic trail we have that overlooks the whole campus,” said Dave Schmidt, chairman of North Allegheny's physical education department. “We haven't used it much because it's a liability right now, and we don't want kids rolling down the hill.”

Spry decided tires would make a solid foundation after learning how Milwaukee architect Keith Hayes used car tires to build a trail in a poor neighborhood.

Hayes patented his idea called “matireal” and is installing another tire trail this summer. He said he hopes his design will spread to other paths because it's so economical.

“Time and the experimentation of this project will only tell,” Hayes said. “It's an innovation that hasn't been done.”

Some trails can cost millions of dollars, said Tom Baxter, executive director of Friends of the Riverfront. About 25 miles of trails cost the South Side organization more than $100 million, he said.

Spry wants to raise $2,300 for her project. She's raised about $850.

She needs about $800 to install a retaining wall alongside the trail and about $1,100 for trail materials. The tires won't be visible once gravel is placed on top of them, she said. The remaining funds will be used to pay construction costs and for other materials.

Trail foundations are necessary to keep a trail in place and prevent erosion.

Some trails managed by Friends of the Riverfront use parts of a train track as a foundation, Baxter said.

Using tires is unusual, but the idea may have potential, Baxter said. The Friends organization isn't involved in the North Allegheny trail.

“It could be something new and exciting,” Baxter said. “We're always looking for ways to reduce and recycle especially when it comes to trail surfaces.”

Baxter said he doesn't expect any environmental problems to arise by burying tires into the ground. It's environmentally beneficial, because tires that would have been thrown away are recycled, he said.

Christina Gallagher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5637 or

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